A judge heard arguments Thursday over whether Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz exceeded his authority in a search for thousands of possible ineligible voters before November’s election. Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and a Latino advocacy group, League of United Latin American Citizens, argued for an injunction to halt an effort to check identities against a federal immigration database to determine citizenship. The move is unnecessary and improper because no evidence of voter fraud exists and the rule creates fear and confusion for eligible voters, an attorney for the advocacy groups said. State attorneys, however, said the rule would expand due process because it creates an appeals process and the federal database reduces the risk of mistakes. Schultz’s plans to investigate 3,582 possible non-U.S. citizens registered to vote in Iowa has thrust the state into a contentious national debate. Critics say a state-by-state voter suppression effort by Republicans disproportionately affects poor and minority voters, who tend to vote for Democrats.
The partisan divide on the issue in Iowa, however, is blurred. Democratic Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller last month attended a joint news conference with Schultz, a Republican, during which Miller defended the secretary of state’s investigation as reasonable.
Joseph Glazebrook, a Des Moines attorney, on Thursday argued Schultz sidestepped normal procedures that include vetting new rules through a commission and a public comment period because he waited too long, without good reason, to start the process.